BART police: It just gets worse

By Tim Redmond

Well, maybe that’s a bit misleading: The BART board’s committee on police oversight first proposed a very weak model, but that got shot down at a community meeting last week, and now member Tom Radulovich is proposing a somewhat stronger approach. He wants a BART police commission with professional staff and the ability to investigate misconduct cases. There are still a bunch of issues — the civilian review agency should get all police abuse cases and should have a clear role in recommending discipline. I prefer a San Francisco-style model, which is what Assembly member Tom Ammiano is pushing, and I still think the Legislature needs to move forward on this.

But as Radulovich has looked into how the BART police really operate, he’s learned a lot — and some of it is truly amazing.

For example, he told me, the BART police union contract spells out the terms of allowable discipline for BART cops (which is crazy to begin with), but the result is mind-boggling in its insanity. Right now, by contract, the chief can only impose three types of discipline on an errant cop:
— A letter of reprimand
— A one-day suspension WITH PAY (that is, a paid holiday)
— Termination.

And since it’s very hard to fire a cop, that means there is basically no effective discipline.

In every American police jurisidiction I’ve ever heard of, a cop can be suspended without pay — and in San Francisco, serious offenses lead to 30, 60, or 90 day suspensions.

But if you’re a BART cop, you can screw up pretty badly and nothing at all will every happen to you.

That contract comes up in June, and the BART Board must change it. “This clearly needs to be an issue in the negotiations,” Radulovich told me.

Another looney provision: All of the officers other than the chief have union protection — and the chief can’t fire, demote or in any way control his own commanders. Nobody works at the chief’s pleasure.

So there’s a weak chief reporting to a bad general manager and no effective discipline at all. No wonder the force is such a godawful mess.